I Love My Latte

( [email protected] ) Dec 02, 2005 11:39 PM EST

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I have to admit that grabbing my latte is a high point of the day. I didn’t always consume drinks with caffeine. When the “fresh age” of 30 arrived along with a break up, I started drinking coffee. Although I occasionally give it up for a few weeks at a time, the comfort and gratification from this basic pleasure doesn’t keep me away from Letteri Café for long. I know I am kidding myself. I don’t really want to give it up, even with the best of intentions. I have given up bad fats, sugar, all meats (although this was not a sacrifice); fish high in mercury, white potatoes and breads except rye. Isn’t this enough?

At this juncture (the point when one knows they want something not quite necessary), it is only natural for me to want to rationalize and justify the reasons I consume lattes. So walking back from the coffee shop with a latte in hand the other day, my focus turned to the true health benefits of this tasty drink. And, the grounds (no pun intended) for my indulgence are becoming stronger.

1) Go for soymilk over cow’s milk. Some sources suggest that cow’s milk is a common food allergy that can contribute to eczema, asthma, sinus congestion or digestive upset. Soy is high in protein and in calcium. It is also beneficial for heart health, prostate cells, menopausal and PMS symptoms, bone density and sex hormone balance (due to its phytoestrogenic isoflavones). Breast tenderness, irritability and acne breakouts before menses can be lessened by having a cup of soymilk each day. Recent studies even suggest that soy protein contributes to fat loss and the maintenance of muscle during a weight loss program.

2) Top it off with cinnamon. Cinnamon is all the rage right now in the treatment and prevention of type 2 because if its insulin-sensitizing effects. Insulin instructs the body to store extra calories as fat if they are not burned off after consumption. An insulin-sensitizing agent is one that causes the cells of the body to have a better response to insulin, which ultimately lessens the need for excessive insulin secretion. A study published in the Diabetes Care found that half a teaspoon of cinnamon a day significantly reduces blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes. It also reduces triglyceride, LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol levels among this group. Less insulin is beneficial beyond weight loss reasons and cholesterol control as avoidance of high insulin levels over long periods of time is linked to reduced risk of cancer (i.e. breast), Alzheimer’s disease, high blood pressure, accelerated aging and heart disease. Cinnamon also improves circulation, so if you experience cold hands and feet, it is the perfect spice for winter.

3) Coffee – one cup a day is not that bad: New research confirms that moderate coffee consumption has possible benefits and may not cause us harm. These benefits include reduced risk for type 2 diabetes, gallstones, liver disease, colon cancer and Parkinson’s disease. Studies show that type 2 diabetes is lower among regular coffee drinkers (two or less cups per day). In addition to the long-term health benefits, the immediate effects of coffee consumption include improved endurance in long-duration physical activities and higher, fat-burning effects before a workout.

Too Much Coffee

Although I am relieved to share the health benefits of drinking coffee, we can’t ignore its harmful effects. Coffee, if large quantities are consumed, can interfere with healthy sleep patterns, exacerbate anxiety and increase heart rate and blood pressure. It can sometimes even contribute to an irregular heart rhythm.

Many studies have considered the effect of caffeine on women’s health issues such as osteoporosis and breast health. The symptoms of fibrocystic breast disease (breast tenderness and cyst formation) are known to worsen with caffeine consumption and too much caffeine causes calcium loss from bones leading to reduced bone density and strength.

And, what about the toxins in coffee? Or the fact that almost every book on anti-aging always recommends avoiding coffee and tea?

My solution is simple. Never consume coffee past lunchtime because different people metabolize caffeine at different rates. Enjoying your coffee early in the day will reduce the impact it may have on your sleep. Always avoid caffeine if you endure anxiety, stress or depression. When you do enjoy your caffeine dose of the day, choose a soy latte with one shot of organic espresso rather than coffee and top it off with cinnamon. Always follow your caffeine drink with a 500 ml bottle of water to allow for rehydration and take your TrueBASICS to replace lost minerals such as calcium. One shot of espresso contains less caffeine than a cup of coffee and your bones will benefit from the soymilk.

Now, the only issue that remains is the cost of those darn lattes!

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Dr. Natasha Turner, ND